Christopher Wilmarth delighted the world with light-filled sculptures of glass and steel that were deeply poetic in their moods and extraordinarily rich in their modernist heritage. But in 1987, at the peak of his career, a long struggle with depression ended tragically for Wilmarth. The internationally acclaimed artist committed suicide at age 44, and his work largely fell from the public view.
Now, Wilmarth's legacy is recaptured in this beautifully written, richly illustrated book by art critic, historian, and poet Steven Henry Madoff. The first in-depth look at Wilmarth's extraordinary life as an artist, the book explores both the light and the darkness that underlie his work. Madoff offers a critical overview of the artist's career, examining the sculptor's response not only to historical masters such as Cézanne, Brancusi, Matisse, and Giacometti, but also to the art world of his times--particularly the dominant influence of Minimalism. Using the newly created Wilmarth archive at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum, Madoff anchors this moving interpretation with the sculptor's own writings unearthed from journals, student notebooks, artist sketchbooks, and letters.
Madoff draws as well from interviews, articles, and poems that Wilmarth published in his lifetime, along with the body of criticism covering Wilmarth's development over the years. Acclaimed biographer Nancy Milford contributes a poignant memoir of her years of friendship with the artist, and Fogg associate curator Edward Saywell offers a powerful selection of Wilmarth's writings. The sculptor's romantic outlook, his gorgeously light-infused art, and his dramatic decline into work of harrowing darkness are sensitively examined in a book that reintroduces Christopher Wilmarth's sculptures and graphics to the contemporary art audience.
"This book shows a deep understanding of Wilmarth's work and career. It is the most comprehensive study we have of this singular artist."--Wall Street Journal
"A moving elegy by art critic and poet Steven Henry Madoff who finds the man through deep analysis of his art. . . . This treatment is temperamentally suited to Wilmarth's art, which was so much about the realm between the physical and the spiritual as achieved through the mercurial qualities of glass. . . . It's impossible to really feel another person's demons, but as Madoff looks into the dark patinas of Wilmarth's once-translucent glass orbs, he makes us feel the tragedy of hope lost."--Hilarie M. Sheets, Art News
"Steven Madoff writes perceptively about Wilmarth, responding to the poetry of his works, and few who look closely at this book will think of glass, steel, and their conjunction, in quite the same way again."--The Architect's Journal
"In this elegantly constructed book, Steven Henry Madoff combines a thoughtful consideration of Wilmarth's anguished life with a fine appreciation of the long-term trajectory and visual poetry of his work. Full of fascinating insights, it is a pleasure to read."--Jack Flam, Brooklyn College and City University of New York Graduate Center.
"The volume will be an important addition to the literature on post-war American art. Written by someone who is both art critic and poet, Madoff's book contains many sensitive interpretations of Wilmarth's work."--Bruce Altshuler, New York University
"This book will fill a significant void in the literature on recent American art. Madoff's text is elegantly written and very informative--a thorough interpretation of Wilmarth's work."--John Beardsley, Harvard Design School
Table of Contents:
Light and Gravity: The Art and Times of Christopher Wilmarth by Steven Henry Madoff 7
Ray by Nancy Milford 123
A Place for Reflection: Writings by Willmarth by Edward Saywell 133
Writings by Christopher Wilmarth 139